Why the GP doesn’t just apply directly
The nuances of primary care recruitment
Carrying on from the last contribution surrounding the recruiter stereotypes and the perennial question of why the ‘GP doesn’t just apply directly’ I thought it would be useful to tackle another commonplace conversation which affects not just primary care recruitment but recruitment in general. There are, however, some nuances to primary care recruitment which make this slightly more interesting topic.
When I’m working with a practice – unless a very established long-term client where it is easier to forecast needs – more often than not you are recruiting into a GP or MDT role which ideally needed filling yesterday. There is always a sense of urgency which with the best will in the world can lead to practices going against their better judgment of working with a sole recruitment partner to several agencies who are all hedging their bets that they might find a candidate for the practice. It’s a solid logic, more agencies mean more people looking which in turns means your more likely to fill a vacancy. You’ve simply made the net bigger – or so you’d think.
Primary care recruitment
In generalist recruitment or areas of higher volume recruitment where you can more broadly qualify a candidate for role this might be the case. Within Primary Care Recruitment there are several facets which mean it isn’t quite that straight forward, here are some:
Chronic shortages of clinicians
- The BMA have reported just weeks ago that the FTE GP workforce continues to decline. Clinical skills are a very finite resource
Increased competition from private enterprise and alternative clinical/ops roles
- Another trend we are seeing is the rapid development of health-tech and alternative healthcare roles which is seeing an increase in GPs leaving NHS roles altogether
Significant increases in the number of practices advertising and vacancies available
- We as a consultancy are handling over 110% more vacancies than we were 6 months ago, the market is as competitive as it has ever been
The scaling of Primary Care
- In line with the five-year-forward and NHSE plans primary care continues to work towards scale with 1 in 6 practices either closing or merging in the last decade
The chronic shortage of clinicians
The first three points are quite closely linked. In short there is a clear and very public chronic shortage of clinicians and an ever-increasing number of vacancies which are either being advertised or remain unfilled. This creates a very niche, incredibly small talent pool of qualified individuals with very high levels of competition. This collectively ties into the fourth point which I would suggest is often overlooked. With the increased scaling of Primary care in line with NHSE plans it becomes much easier to exhaust a talent pool especially in more suburban or semi-rural areas and even more so when working on a multiple hire campaign. You effectively have a very small number of qualified individuals with fewer, albeit highly competitive, options to consider.
It’s probably important to qualify what it means to exhaust a talent pool. The finite talent pool combined with broader collective working within primary care either through mergers or PCNs leads to a less mobile and more cautious workforce. This isn’t in itself a bad thing, but it does mean that clinicians will often only move if they are confident such a move would help ‘fix’ something. It wouldn’t be unusual to proactively speak to 99 people before getting to the 100th person who might genuinely be interested in a role.
Finding qualified potential candidates
When you are recruiting for a practice with 24,000 patients who are looking for 2 potentially 3 hires and you have a finite number of qualified potential candidates within a commutable radius it’s not unreasonable to imagine how quickly one might work through a network and list of referrals. Whilst you may succeed in recruiting into 2/3 of those hires it is quite possible the 3rd may prove problematic. A similar principle would apply if you were looking to stagger, for example, 2-3 hires over a 12-month period. In the meantime, this rightly puts the onus on retention of those you do successfully onboard; the network will refresh, people’s motivations, priorities and availability are constantly changing but the likelihood is if someone says they are happy where they are and not looking to move in May then they most likely won’t be interested in June either.
This sets out a very general landscape of recruiting within Primary Care, but it is in these gaps that the question of whether working with multiple agencies mean more candidates and in turn a shorter hiring time. If you are working with a consultancy who have the experience and the tried and tested process to generate results the likely answer is no but there is a responsibility to relay and feedback on what the problems have been, not just to pop up 6 months after taking a role on with a candidate on the off chance the practice might still be looking.
A finite number of potential candidates
With such a finite number of potential candidates, where working with multiple agencies can also be problematic beyond not yielding any real benefit is the broader message it sends to prospective employees in the area. The analogy of having multiple ‘for sale’ signs outside your house is one which gets used frequently in this situation and it is easy to see why.
If the same people are being contacted about the same opportunity by multiple different sources, it begins to look more desperate and less proactive. There is also the consideration of the message being sent to potential candidates in the local area; there is an immediate loss of control of the process when the message going out is being diluted differently by several different people some of whom might not have a grasp on what the role actually entails leaving candidates with conflicting views of what a practice is actually offering.
Focus your approach
In short multiple agencies all working on the same role is unlikely to yield more candidates unless the role wasn’t being proactively worked in the first place. The pool of GPs nationally is so small adding more recruiters to the mix is unlikely to generate additional candidates outside of already well-established networks.
There are however some clear disadvantages to consider, namely the mixed message it sends to those GPs who may be passively considering options locally as well as the unintended risk of compromising a relationship with your typically preferred recruitment consultancy. This often leads to multiple recruiters doing an average, often poor, job rather than one sole partner delivering an outstanding service – albeit this often takes time!
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“It’s often the case that the best GPs are already in employment in the local area and simply aren’t looking at the LMC or BMJ for a new role; by working proactively with Menlo Park to take our opportunity to a wider audience we have had amazing results, attracting GPs who quite simply wouldn’t have come through the door.”
Martin Wilson | HR & Finance Manager
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